Book Lovers’ Delight: I’d Rather Be Reading by Anne Bogel

We are readers. Books grace our shelves and fill our homes with beauty; they dwell in our minds and occupy our thoughts. Books prompt us to spend pleasant hours alone and connect us with fellow readers. They invite us to escape into their pages for an afternoon, and they inspire us to reimagine our lives.”

The audiobook for Anne Bogel’s I’d Rather Be Reading, read by the author, was the perfect companion to a day filled with cooking meals and cleaning my room. It’s lighthearted and a breeze to listen to; I sped through like eight chapters without even noticing.

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(Chapter: “A Reader’s Coming of Age”)

I’d Rather Be Reading is a collection full of spectacular, talkative essays that chronicle and accentuate the simple things in books make us love in them. Bogel’s love for books shines so sincerely in her writing. Her bookish enthusiasm reminded me of why I read in the first place.

Not out of habit or duty, but because reading is part of who they are. It’s in their blood. They’re book people.”

This book also reminded me of the human connection I feel after reading a good Nonfiction essay collection, which I haven’t experienced in a hot minute. Surprisingly, it also brings back memories on all those books that made up your life one by one. The ones that changed the game by making you love reading, the ones that you hate to love and love to hate, the funny books, the childhood favorites, and so many more that came to shape the person you are today.

There’s a love letter to the library next door. Taking the hint when a book arrives at the right time in your life when it seeks you out. Living out her bookseller dreams for a day (and the odd requests received). Being “book bossy” and the treacherous ground of unsolicited advice that accompanies recommending people (especially her kids) what to read. The beauty of rereading a book, which reminded me of a podcast I listened to that hosted BookTuber Ariel Bissett, who talked more in detail on why rereading matters: We read to find books we love and want to revisit.

Coming of age with books and rereading them years late makes you see and uncover different things each time. They’re like photographs, taking you back to the exact moment in time when and where you read.

Rereading can make you remember who you used to be, and, like pencil marks on a door frame, show you how much you’ve changed. ”

Other goodies include a full chapter on Bookworm Problems. The hidden pleasures in reading the acknowledgments and sharing some of the favorite last page excerpts from books the author has read.

“I’m a reader who always wondered what the writing life was like, and not knowing the details, supplied my own—” “But in the acknowledgments, the authors hint at the practicalities of writing books, brass-tacks details that might otherwise never occur to readers.”

I enjoy reading the acknowledgments at the end as well because it makes for a less abrupt switch of mindset between reading and not reading. It also grants me the time to part peacefully from the book, like having trailers after the movie to prepare me for the exit. Also: “I especially enjoy stumbling across miscellaneous goodies and oddities, the things an author can’t include anywhere else”

In short: I’d Rather Be Reading capture the truth of our bookish experience in bite-size chapters consumable anytime and anywhere in your busy day.

Lastly, I have to mention this brilliant idea the author had on getting her hand on her library records. These records show so much of our timeline; our history through our bookish finds. It would be an ineffable experience.

“Based on my borrowed titles alone, I’d be able to clearly see the months and years I spent away from my hometown, the one I’m happy to live in even now. I would be able to spot the summer I got engaged, when I checked out every book on wedding planning in the library system. The month I learned I was pregnant and immediately cleared the shelves of those books. The sudden surge of board book checkouts a year later, after we’d added another tiny reader to our household. It’s all right there, in my library records.”

Among the many noteworthy book recommendations, I’m already on my way to my local library to browse their book shelves. Oh, and, of course, the on theme black-and-white illustrations scattered throughout the book were a joy to look at:I'd Rather Be Reading 1- bookspoils(Chapter: “Windows to the Soul”)
I'd Rather Be Reading 3- bookspoils(Chapter: “Confess Your Literary Sins”)

I'd Rather Be Reading 4- bookspoils(Chapter: “Book Bossy”)

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Review: Worlds from the Word’s End by Joanna Walsh

“You will agree: had you always the right book to hand, oh what reading you would have done!”

It’s only fitting that right after I post my take on The Beautiful Book Covers Tag, I stumble across the striking cover for Worlds from the Word’s End, designed and illustrated by Roman Muradov:Worlds from the Word's End-- bookspoilsThe detailed art structure sets the tone for what to expect in Worlds from the Word’s End. A swift collection of short stories that (for the most) get straight to the point was exactly the kind of read I was seeking.

From a freewheeling story on cycling (and Freud), to a country in which words themselves fall out of fashion, to a bookshelf (‘Bookselves’) full of unread books coming to life to judge you.

“Something you never thought might happen: after a certain number of years the being who has read all these neglected books will step from your bookshelves, will sit down at your table (conveniently adjacent), will make a cup of coffee at the machine, having seen you use it so many times, especially when about to tackle a book, and will light a cigarette, insubstantial as steam, the odour of which will affect neither your carpets nor curtains. It will be the opposite of you, your inverse.”

Love of books is quietly present throughout the collection.

Another noteworthy story takes on the saying “Actions speak louder than words,” as language crumbles around them.

“You like women who are quiet? In the end it was not so difficult to let you go: you were only interested in the sound of your own voice. ”

The most memorable piece for me.

Also, this:

“I prefer Departures to Arrivals, by which time everything has already happened. Even as dawn approaches in long lozenges of broken light, Arrivals do not notice the beautiful station. They look down, headed for something known, for home, for bed. Of course some are met, but fewer than you would think, and they don’t stick around. Heroics are reserved for Departures: brave looks, last embraces, minutes slowed by kisses.”

But save for the two stories above that I enjoyed most, the nineteen tales in here are all over the place. The incoherent narrative (or lack thereof) became bothersome overtime, especially for the shorter pieces. They didn’t pack a punch and were remarkably mediocre, so much so that you’d forget what it was about the minute you moved on to the next piece.

Though I was looking for short stories that were quick and precise, Worlds from the Word’s End seemed to only deliver on the quick part.

Bottom line: I was drawn to the cover and that’s the best to have come out of this collection for me.

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Review: The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

“A place is not really a place without a bookstore.”

tumblr_omegnlbzpf1vyjupno10_400The beginning of The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry was the most fun I had reading a fiction book since the start of this year. What compelled me to give it a go was seeing this next quote shared online:

“People tell boring lies about politics, God, and love. You know everything you need to know about a person from the answer to the question, What is your favorite book?”

And I’m forevermore grateful because what followed was something I couldn’t have possibly foreseen: I laughed, teared up, cackled, and became super invested in the lives of this incredible cast of characters, both supporting and leading, from Alice Island. The blurb does an excellent job of capturing their defining moments:

A. J. Fikry’s life is not at all what he expected it to be. His wife has died, his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history, and now his prized possession, a rare collection of Poe poems, has been stolen. Slowly but surely, he is isolating himself from all the people of Alice Island—from Lambiase, the well-intentioned police officer who’s always felt kindly toward Fikry; from Ismay, his sister-in-law who is hell-bent on saving him from his dreary self; from Amelia, the lovely and idealistic (if eccentric) Knightley Press sales rep who keeps on taking the ferry over to Alice Island, refusing to be deterred by A.J.’s bad attitude. Even the books in his store have stopped holding pleasure for him. These days, A.J. can only see them as a sign of a world that is changing too rapidly.

And then a mysterious package appears at the bookstore. It’s a small package, but large in weight. It’s that unexpected arrival that gives A. J. Fikry the opportunity to make his life over, the ability to see everything anew. It doesn’t take long for the locals to notice the change overcoming A.J.; or for that determined sales rep, Amelia, to see her curmudgeonly client in a new light; or for the wisdom of all those books to become again the lifeblood of A.J.’s world; or for everything to twist again into a version of his life that he didn’t see coming. As surprising as it is moving, The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry is an unforgettable tale of transformation and second chances, an irresistible affirmation of why we read, and why we love.

As I mentioned at the start of this review, I was drawn to the beginning of this book, thanks to the numerous laugh-out-loud moments where the main character keeps breaking the fourth wall left and right.

“My wife and I,” A.J. replied without thinking. “Oh Christ, I just did that stupid thing where the character forgets that the spouse has died and he accidentally uses ‘we.’ That’s such a cliché. Officer”—he paused to read the cop’s badge—“Lambiase, you and I are characters in a bad novel. Do you know that? How the heck did we end up here? You’re probably thinking to yourself, Poor bastard, and tonight you’ll hug your kids extra tight because that’s what characters in these kinds of novels do. You know the kind of book I’m talking about, right? The kind of hotshot literary fiction that, like, follows some unimportant supporting character for a bit so it looks all Faulkneresque and expansive. Look how the author cares for the little people! The common man! How broad-minded he or she must be! Even your name. Officer Lambiase is the perfect name for a clichéd Massachusetts cop. Are you racist, Lambiase? Because your kind of character ought to be racist.”

This made me throw my head back with laughter. INCREDIBLE.

I went into this book so hesitant because I thought it would read exactly like what the author was making fun of in the above paragraph… But needless to say, I was more than misled. The last time I felt this same amount of surprise was when I finally caved in to watch the film Deadpool (which is the last thing I thought I’d be comparing this book with) and was utterly blown away with its crass and precise humor.

And the same type of wit is used by our main character, the snarky and grumpy A.J. Fikry.

Aside from appreciating the more comical moments, I also enjoyed Gabrielle Zevin’s swift novel for making each chapter feel like a short story. Similar to how the Netflix tv series, Master of None uses each episode to explore a different theme (which I’ll talk about extensively in my May Wrap Up), this book dived into the notions of fatherhood, grief, love, friendship, book people, and so much more.

Plus, A.J. Fikry’s short reviews to his “dear little nerds” interspersed at the start of every new chapter made reading the book that more enjoyable. A.J. always had something noteworthy written down that would make me think for days to come.

“My life is in these books, he wants to tell her. Read these and know my heart.”

This standout of a novel was full of eclectic, charming, mismatched characters with the addition of memorable quotes to ponder (I nearly underlined every other line), and twists and turns at each corner, promising to really do a number on your mind. But at the heart of it all, there’s a quiet allure to this world Zevin created that held me glued to the pages, completely rapt, till I reached that dreaded last page. And to conclude, reading about these lovely nerds, who perfectly get my love for reading, was a comfort for my soul. I feel like this next quote sums up my chance encounter with this read pretty well: “the necessity of encountering stories at precisely the right time in our lives.” I’m beyond grateful that I had the joy to discover The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry.

5/5 stars

Note: I’m an Amazon Affiliate. If you’re interested in buying The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry, just click on the image below to go through my link. I’ll make a small commission!